We’re constantly being asked to push people’s content. Sometimes it’s because it’s sharing something that might be helpful, or useful to others. Sometimes people share nonsense to breed hate. Should we always share though?
I remember there was a post knocking around a year ago on Facebook about Samaritans having a ‘text’ number. It seemed really helpful, and could, in theory, help someone like me who struggles to speak to new people (especially on the phone), and in a real dire hour of need could literally save a life. Because the post wasn’t directly by Samaritans I did a bit of Googling. It turns out Samaritans were trialling a text service in a very limited fashion. However, because the number had gone viral they were inundated with requests and weren’t able to sustain it. Samaritans are wanting to have a service like this, but without the funding, it’s hard to. I didn’t share the post. The thought of someone in desperate need texting a number that couldn’t offer any help just didn’t sit right.
Another post that does the rounds regularly is one that basically says ‘If you are accosted at a cash machine and someone forces you to withdraw money, if you type your PIN in reverse it will still work, and send an alert to a local police officer’. It sounds like bullshit. It is bullshit. What if you have 2882 as your PIN? Still though, people believe it enough to carry on sharing it. Snopes has this one too! There’s some poor sod out there being forced to withdraw cash, getting their PIN wrong repeatedly, and hoping the police are coming.
If you also think the Police get your location and will run to you if you press the side button on your iPhone 5 times. PSA – They won’t. Still, I’ve seen this doing the rounds on Facebook. It will dial 999 (or whatever your emergency services number is), but no location information is shared with the Police. Again, imagine you crash your car and with your dying hands, you manage to press the button 5 times thinking that the police will be right there with you. Those 5 taps could have dialled 999.
The power of Facebook is strong when hunting down missing people or pets. It’s a very quick way of getting a face out there, and people aware. So many times though, the posts are old and if you read the comments you’ll see the person / pet has been found hours (or days) earlier.
And don’t get me started on the post about ‘Ice cubes giving dogs hyperthermia’ in Summer.
As well as people thinking they are sharing helpful stuff, often folk will share hateful stuff. This post was shared by someone who (was) a Facebook friend –
“THIS MUSLIM BURNED A POPPY AND PAID HIS £50 FINE WITH HIS BENEFITS – THESE WHITE GUYS COVERED A MOSQUE IN BACON AND GOT TWO WEEKS IN PRISON – SHARE IF YOU THINK THIS IS UNFAIR!”
I would wager that at least 50% of that is false – if that. Even if it IS true. You’re a dick if you burn poppies, you’re a dick if you put bacon on a mosque. Why do we need to share these dickish acts? I imagine more people will be offended by a Muslim burning a Poppy (which probably didn’t happen), than some thugs making a mosque-in-blankets (which definitely did happen). We shouldn’t be sharing any kind of hate.
You’ll often see far right, and racists pages making Memes that are deliberately ‘shareable’. “Share this if you love our Armed Forces”. It sounds like a nice message, but if you click on their page you’ll soon see their other Memes aren’t so nice. Don’t support racists – it’s not cool.
The power of sharing is a strong one – take Iceland’s ‘Banned’ Christmas Advert. That has gone utterly mental because people are sharing the heck out of it. There’s even a petition to get it ‘unbanned’. The issue is, it’s not actually been banned. It was submitted to Clearcast, a private company that clears adverts on behalf of the 4 main broadcasters in the UK. Because the advert is ‘political’ it can’t be shown on UK TV.
It’s not actually an Iceland video, it’s a Greenpeace video and it’s been available for a while on their website. It contravenes a broadcasting code, and therefore can’t be shown. Clearcast haven’t banned it and Greenpeace and Iceland will be very aware that it couldn’t be shown on TV. The video definitely raises interesting issues, there’s no doubt – but touting it around because it’s ‘Banned’ isn’t entirely true. This Wired article explains it all.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it when someone Shares or Retweets something I’ve written. However, if we’re just sharing nonsense, half-truths, hatred, and massive lies – it doesn’t help anyone. So, before you hit Share or RT on that ‘helpful tip’- Google to see if it’s helpful and correct. Perhaps check that the ‘Share if you Agree’ post you’re really passionate about isn’t just some emotive fodder from a far-right group.
But… Share this, obviously.
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